Washington, D.C. – (APRIL 14, 2020) – Safari Club International CEO W. Laird Hamberlin recently brought attention to the looming threat to wildlife conservation as a result of COVID-19 in an op-ed that appeared in The Daily Caller.
Americans are rightly focused on the threat that COVID-19 poses to humans. We are all thankful for the first responders and health care workers who are on the front lines of this crisis, and we mourn the senseless loss of human life. We are all cheering on the scientists and researchers who are working feverishly to develop and test possible treatments and a vaccine, while the rest of us remain at home and practice social distancing to limit the spread of the pandemic.
But the coronavirus poses another threat – to our nation’s wildlife. The threat does not rest in direct transmission of the virus to animals, but in an economic chain reaction that could deny the states billions of dollars in vital funding for the conservation of wildlife and habitat.
That loss of funding would then filter directly down to our nation’s wildlife populations, threatening the success of the robust, science-based conservation infrastructure that is now administered by state wildlife management agencies.
Last year alone, the federal government collected nearly one billion dollars of excise taxes paid on guns, ammunition, and related products. Those taxes were established in 1937 with the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act, at the urging of hunters and conservationists.
The taxes are then annually redistributed to the states via the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The program uses a formula to apportion the grants among the states, and states must match 25% of the federal grant funds in order to collect the grant.
The funds are then deployed by state scientists and biologists who monitor, research and manage wildlife populations. In normal times, the program works smoothly and the taxes paid by hunters are deployed directly back into the field to support the conservation of more than 500 different species of game and non-game species alike.
But these are not normal times. The pandemic is blowing enormous holes in state budgets, which will ripple through state agencies for years to come. The sale of hunting licenses, which provides the majority of states’ matching funds, will likely fall precipitously in the widespread economic hardship that has already begun to spread nationwide.
And some states are exacerbating the problem already by canceling non-resident access to upcoming hunting seasons. Non-resident hunting licenses typically sell for a premium well above resident licenses, so the resulting loss of funding will be even sharper.
The bottom line is that states will be hard-pressed to come up with the 25% matching funds needed to be eligible for the federal grant funding. $976 million dollars currently sits in the coffers of the federal grant program, awaiting disbursement by the FWS. But if states can’t come up with the matching funds, they will receive nothing.
It is bitterly ironic that even while gun sales are surging and excise taxes are pouring into the federal coffers, states may be denied access to the critical conservation funding upon which our nation’s wildlife populations rely.
But there is a solution for the unprecedented crisis in which we find ourselves. Congress should work to give the FWS the flexibility to eliminate the match requirement until state fish and wildlife agencies can get back on their feet.
And if that can’t get done in a timely fashion amidst the many relief bills Congress will consider in weeks and months to come, the FWS should simply use the 2019 numbers supplied by the states to determine the 2020 grant allocations. These are verified numbers that were used one year ago for the same purpose, and they represent the only available data set that won’t be horribly mangled by the looming economic impact of COVID-19.
Just as Congress moved quickly to address the economic impact of the coronavirus, we urge the House and Senate to move quickly to adopt this workaround. Now is the worst possible time to allow much-needed state funding to get tangled up by an arbitrary cutoff percentage that will worsen the unprecedented crisis we face today.
|I wanted to reach out personally to say that your SCI family is thinking of you as we all navigate the uncharted waters brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of SCI, you are our backbone and we rely on you to carry out our shared mission – to promote and protect our hunting heritage. Although our day-to-day lives may be altered during these unprecedented times, our commitment to fight for OUR way of life will not waver. Whether it’s dealing with canceled hunts (hunters, professional hunters, guides, outfitters and operators alike), or kids home from school, we are all adapting to the realities we face during this pandemic. But at the same time, SCI remains focused on attacks that can and will still arise. The anti-hunters never let a crisis go to waste – just listen to Joe Biden threatening to shut down hunting over the weekend.|
Even now, during times like these, SCI members must remain vigilant. Hunters have asked what they can do while isolated in their homes. The answer is to stay engaged. First and foremost, we are a family so let’s look out for one another. As a member of SCI, you have already shown leadership and a passion for protecting our hunting heritage. In addition, please consider helping in the following ways: 1. If you hear of abuses to our hunting rights in your area, please let us know as we continue to work on your behalf. If you haven’t already, please sign up for the Hunter Advocacy Action Center. This important tool allows our members to help us defend hunting through any circumstance right from the comfort of their home. Click the link below to sign up. 2. Please consider renewing or upgrading your membership. It’s also a great time to gift an SCI membership to a family member or fellow hunter. 3. Please consider supporting Safari Club International Foundation, SCI-PAC or the Hunter Action Fund. As we all work together through these challenging times, your support is crucial. We can and will continue to lead the fight to protect your freedom to hunt worldwide. The anti-hunting crowd hopes we struggle – so let’s show them our resolve by proudly supporting Safari Club International! May God bless you and your families, – W. Laird HamberlinCEO, Safari Club International
“Washington, DC – -(AmmoLand.com)- A U.S. federal district court in Washington, D.C. has dismissed a case challenging the removal of the Louisiana black bear from the federal threatened and endangered species list. Plaintiffs sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) over the 2016 delisting, and Safari Club International (SCI) successfully intervened to defend the USFWS’s science-based decision. The court relied on SCI’s arguments in dismissing the suit.”